Pro Pundit Teams

How Black Box Thinking helps me with FPL strategy

“Success is not just dependent on before-the-event reasoning, it is also about after-the-trigger adaptation.”

Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking

A few years ago, I read a book by Matthew Syed called Black Box Thinking. In his own words, Syed described the book as being about “the willingness and tenacity to investigate the lessons that often exist when we fail, but which we rarely exploit.”.

Because I am, like many of you reading this, obsessed with Fantasy Football, last year I wondered whether I do enough self-reflection about my decisions and strategies.

I’m delighted to say that, as part of the Pro Pundits initiative, Fantasy Football Scout have given me license to have my own fortnightly article, where I will recap on my successes and failures.

It is my hope that as well as myself – you, the reader, will also learn from my experiences.

After my best ever finish in the 2016/17 season (817th place), the 2017/18 campaign was tainted by a frankly dreadful first 30 weeks or so. I was ranked around the 400k mark with only a handful of weeks to go, and things were looking grim. But, I managed to pull it around and finished with a respectable finish of around 60k.

I have been stung by Pedro in the past

Some of you may have listened to my Black Box Thinking podcasts last season. I didn’t make as many as I would have liked to – real life got in the way – but I do feel as though my note-taking and pondering over decisions led me to make some better ones towards the end of the season, which ultimately led to a decent finish.

“Hindsight” is a word that I see a lot on the message boards here and on Twitter. It seems to have negative connotations to it. “I wish I had captained x and not y”. To this end, I agree. If you’ve done your research – and you make a sensible choice based on the tried and tested FPL totems of form, fixtures, stats and eye test – then you can’t really beat yourself up if the Gods decide it’s not your time.

But there are certain traps that I fall into time and time again when playing this game, despite it being my 13th season of playing.

Buying players who are rotation risks is one of my signature moves. I’ve been burned by the likes of Pedro (£6.9m), Ilkay Gundogan (£5.2m) and Alexandre Lacazette (£9.3m), as I tried to be clever and “cover” certain teams.

Making outlandish captaincy decisions has also been my downfall. During 2017/18 I captained Jesse Lingard (yes, really) when Harry Kane (£10.9m) got a brace. I also stuck the armband on Richarlison (£7.9m) and watched with hands over my eyes as Mohamed Salah (£12.5m) was thwarted by the opposition goalkeeper time and time again (I got off lightly that time). During 2016/17 I remember captaining a fresh-off-the-physio-table Sergio Aguero (£12.2m) as he blanked against Arsenal, while the man I sold, Diego Costa, racked up a cricket score against Swansea.

Pascal Groß did big things for me several years ago

These moves are tinged with regret because I know deep down that they were poor decisions. However, when I think about some of my best moments in FPL, they are when I’ve rolled the dice and owned a player who has delivered on the promise that I – and not many others – saw. Pascal Groß (£6.4m) will always be the diamond that I feel I unearthed during my best-ever season. I also have fond memories of when I built a defence entirely around wing-backs. Decisions like this remind me of why I play this game; there’s nothing worse than following the crowd and failing anyway.

So, is it possible to learn from mistakes, to go against your gut because you have learned that that tactic rarely works, but also have fun and back yourself? I think it is. I want to learn to balance my heart, my head, and the devil on my shoulder telling me to do something reckless. I want to start making moves that make sense, that aren’t founded on hopes and dreams. I want to get ahead of the pack playing my own game, but using my experience, successes, and failures to help me make better decisions.

How I am lining up for Gameweek 9 of Fantasy Premier League

And yet, here I am, eight Gameweeks into the new season and I worry that the same mistakes are still in my system. A few weeks ago, I benched Teemu Pukki (£7.1m) while he ran riot against an injury-ravaged Man City defence, so I could play a Sheffield United defender. I’m in danger of trying to be too clever yet again. At the time of writing, I’ve got Riyad Mahrez (£8.7m) in my squad. I also have no Liverpool attackers.

I’ve instead decided to go for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m) and Callum Wilson (£7.9m), who up until last week hadn’t recorded a single blank all season. But  I’m not sure I really trust Arsenal, or Bournemouth with their new system. I’m concerned that Pep Guardiola’s rotation will catch me out, despite Mahrez looking a strong option with Bernardo Silva (£7.9m) facing a ban. I’m also fearing my selling of Salah when Liverpool are boasting a 100%-win rate and he is still posting some decent stats.

Will I be sat here, writing the next article ruing my decisions? I guess only time will tell, but the Black Box is on and recording – and I intend to learn from it.

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Az Follow me on Twitter : @ffscout_az” Follow him on Twitter

287 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Dribbles
      28 days, 5 hours ago

      Mane to Milner as a punt? Talk to me

      1. gooner_112233445566
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        28 days, 5 hours ago

        Surely this is a joke?

      2. Miguel Sanchez
        • Fantasy Football Scout Member
        • 3 Years
        28 days, 5 hours ago

        Is Mike Dean ref?

      3. Bat Man
        • 2 Years
        28 days, 5 hours ago

        Stop drinking

      4. Jarvish Scott Talent
        • 4 Years
        28 days, 5 hours ago

        No thanks

      5. FOO FIGHTER
          28 days, 5 hours ago

          I need what you are smoking 😀

        • Mike Bassett Fantasy Manage…
            28 days, 5 hours ago

            Milner penalty incoming

          • Ask Yourself
            • Fantasy Football Scout Member
            • 3 Years
            28 days, 5 hours ago

            No that’s obviously a stupid idea

          • Amey
            • 1 Year
            28 days, 4 hours ago

            Nice effort 🙂

        • gooner_112233445566
          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
          28 days, 5 hours ago

          Last decision on wildcard

          A) soy, Maddison, Wilson
          B) pereira, odoi, vardy
          C) pereira, Maddison, king

          Got Abraham and mount already....

          1. Bat Man
            • 2 Years
            28 days, 5 hours ago

            A for me

          2. FOO FIGHTER
              28 days, 4 hours ago

              B

              1. gooner_112233445566
                • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                28 days, 4 hours ago

                Or d) perreira, odoi, wilson

              2. gooner_112233445566
                • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                28 days, 4 hours ago

                I can’t afford b, I meant to have Wilson instead of vardy

                1. FOO FIGHTER
                    28 days, 4 hours ago

                    Then I would still go B.

                    1. gooner_112233445566
                      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                      28 days, 4 hours ago

                      Thanks. Such a tough decision

                    2. FOO FIGHTER
                        28 days, 4 hours ago

                        Pereira, CHO and Wilson

                        1. gooner_112233445566
                          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                          28 days, 4 hours ago

                          Thank you mate

              3. Bat Man
                • 2 Years
                28 days, 5 hours ago

                2 FT

                Pope Adrian
                Alderweireld Soy Lund Pieters Kelly
                Salah Sterling Dilva Mount Cant
                Kun Haller Greenwood

                Kun + Greenwood to Tammy + Wilson?

                Would allow me to upgrade Dilva to KDB next week as well

                1. FOO FIGHTER
                    28 days, 4 hours ago

                    Adrian to 4.0 and extra cash.

                2. heptonstall
                  • 10 Years
                  28 days, 4 hours ago

                  A Jimenez/Mina/Vertonghen

                  B Joelinton/VVD/Maguire

                  Who wins?

                  1. Bat Man
                    • 2 Years
                    28 days, 4 hours ago

                    A but I’d find someone else over Mina

                  2. gooner_112233445566
                    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                    28 days, 4 hours ago

                    Terrible choices. Would only want Jimenez and vvd out of them

                    1. heptonstall
                      • 10 Years
                      28 days, 4 hours ago

                      It's a 10 team draft league question

                3. Greyling
                  • 3 Years
                  28 days, 4 hours ago

                  Hi. What changes are needed for gw9?

                  Pope,
                  TAA, Digne, Pieters,
                  Salah, Mount, McGinn, Son, Sterling
                  Abraham, Pukki

                  Bench: Lundstram, Kelly, Greenwood

                  A) Digne to Pereira/Soyuncu
                  B) Digne to Boly/Doherty
                  C) Digne, Pukki to Soyuncu, Wilson (-4)
                  D) Save FT

                  1. Greyling
                    • 3 Years
                    28 days, 4 hours ago

                    E) Digne, Pukki to Soyuncu, Jimenez (-4)

                    1. Vasily
                      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                      • 7 Years
                      28 days, 4 hours ago

                      This

                  2. FOO FIGHTER
                      28 days, 4 hours ago

                      Digne to Pereira.

                  3. Oggle22
                    • 2 Years
                    28 days, 4 hours ago

                    2FT
                    Pope
                    Otemendi TAA Lundstarm
                    Salah Sterling Guendouzi Mount
                    Pukki Kun Abraham

                    Button Cantwell Kelly Pieters
                    Pukki to King roll other ft

                    Cheers

                  4. RAFA THE GAFFA
                    • 3 Years
                    28 days, 4 hours ago

                    WC Team, but unsure on a captain this week?

                    Alternatively I get Kane(C) instead of Kun as a one week punt.

                    Pope
                    TAA • Söyüncü • Tomori
                    KDB • Mount • Mané • Maddison
                    Agüero • Abraham • C.Wilson
                    (McGovern. Rico. Lunds. Dendo)

                    1. Zombiesmurffi
                      • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                      • 4 Years
                      28 days, 4 hours ago

                      I think Abraham. I have the same team.

                  5. New Article Posted
                  6. HarryB29
                    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                    • 1 Year
                    28 days, 4 hours ago

                    Is this worth the hit?

                    Salah, Barnes, Otamendi --> Mane, Wilson, Soyuncu (-4)

                  7. AK_FC
                    • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                    • 5 Years
                    28 days, 4 hours ago

                    Current WC team:
                    Ryan
                    TAA - Tomori - Soy
                    KDB - Mane - Mount - Maddison
                    Auba - Abra - Vardy
                    (Button; Rico, Lund, Dendocke)

                    1.1 ITB, still trying to decide on:
                    Auba or Kun?
                    Vardy or C.Wilson?
                    Any other suggestions?

                  8. Krupinho
                      28 days, 4 hours ago

                      2 FTs and o.1 ITB

                      Pukki to Jimenez? worth a shout or any other suggestions welcome

                      Current Team

                      Pope
                      TTA Soy Otta Rico
                      Salah Sterling Mount
                      Pukki Auba Abraham (C)

                      Button Guendozi Lund Cantwell

                    • Andre_The_Giant
                        28 days, 4 hours ago

                        Currently considering Salah & Pukki to Maddison & Auba (1.1m ITB) or Maddison & Aguero. Already own Sterling and KDB.

                        Also still have my WC so can bring Salah back in at a later date when required.

                        Feel like those moves might blow up in my face though. Thoughts?

                        1. WOLVERiNES
                          • 7 Years
                          28 days, 4 hours ago

                          Sterling + KDB should be enough.

                          Maddi/Auba seems like a decent transfer but I wont do it for a hit.

                      • WOLVERiNES
                        • 7 Years
                        28 days, 4 hours ago

                        After two weeks of tinkering, Ive finally decided on my WC team. Overthinking in this case has been very good for me. My initial few drafts had some really bad/speculative) picks ( Mahrez, Reid, ElNeny, Gazza, Lascelles)

                        Only risks in my final team are Tierney & Maddison. As an Arsenal fan I have decent amount of confidence in Tierney and kind of on the positive side he starts this Monday.

                        Schmeical,
                        TAA, Tierney, Rico,
                        Mane, Mount, Maddison, KDB
                        Abraham, C.Wilson, Aubameyang

                        Button Saka, Lundstram, Kelly

                        Good to go ?

                      • Cantwell on these things.
                        • 2 Years
                        28 days, 4 hours ago

                        Tl;Dr: What Az means by black box thinking is whenever he makes a transfer he's gotta sing

                        'you just walk right in, walk walk walk right in!'

                        1. Az
                          • Fantasy Football Scout Member
                          • Has Moderation Rights
                          • 10 Years
                          27 days, 23 hours ago

                          YESSSS

                      • Mike Bassett Fantasy Manage…
                          28 days, 4 hours ago

                          Poch on Vorm:
                          The position is different, Hes going to need some time. It was a special situation that happened to sign him. We trust him. He was training. He needs to be on the pitch, in the goal. But im sure he will be ready as soon as possible, quickly.

                        • kidzac
                          • 7 Years
                          28 days, 4 hours ago

                          Current team

                          Henderson
                          Vvd matip Tierney
                          Mane sterling kdb Wilson mcginn
                          Tammy pukki

                          Pope ayew targett lundstrum

                          FT used to bring in targett for zinchenko before the price fell. Bench in order? Kind of expecting massive points from my bench this week whoever I bench. Hahaha!

                        • rnrd
                          • 5 Years
                          28 days, 3 hours ago

                          Could CHO raise tonight?